Andy Woodward: Some Notes on Timing and a “Stalker” Allegation

(amended – H/T Bandini in the comments)

From the Guardian:

It began with the former footballer Andy Woodward bravely stepping out of the shadows to describe to the Guardian the sexual abuse he endured as a young player. Two weeks on it has spiralled into a scandal engulfing clubs and communities across the UK.

By Friday, 18 police forces were investigating leads from at least 350 alleged victims, the NSPCC children’s charity was processing almost 1,000 reports to a hotline and one of the world’s most famous clubs, Chelsea, was facing questions about whether it had tried to hush up abuse allegations.

Woodward’s abuser was convicted of child sex offences against him and others some years ago (many of the reports do not make clear that Woodward was one of the complainants at that time). However, there is now a new police investigation, and as such there are legal restrictions on discussing the matter further in the UK.

By waiving his right to anonymity, Woodward had to overcome a sense of humiliation and shame that often overwhelms and silences victims of sexual crime. It is also reasonable to suppose that being a male victim of a male predator within a masculine environment made disclosure particularly difficult – as demonstrated by boorish comments from the darts commentator Eric Bristow, who responded by mocking footballers as “wimps” for not subjecting abusers to vigilante punishments (in a subsequent interview with Piers Morgan, Bristow managed to explain – despite constant hectoring from Morgan whenever he attempted to speak – that he had wanted to encourage victims to come forward sooner, although he later made an apology and deleted some Tweets).

However, there are a couple of aspects to the new publicity around Woodward that require a bit of critical scrutiny beyond merely referring to Woodward’s “bravery”. First, reports have mentioned in passing that Woodward was very recently dismissed from his position as a police officer with the Lancashire Constabulary “for having a relationship with the adult sister of a crime victim”. Thus Woodward had a particular motive for speaking out at this time – instant redemption from professional disgrace. Yet no-one in the media, so far as I can see, has asked him about the connection between the two events, which occurred just a week apart.

Second, Woodward entered into a bizarre Twitter exchange with the libertarian barrister Barbara Hewson, after Barbara challenged the idea that being the victim of sexual crime means that one’s life is inevitably “ruined”. Obviously, this was a provocative and controversial interjection into the discussion. She did not address Woodward directly, but her comment was brought to his attention by self-styled “CSA campaigners”, some of whom are quite reckless in their embrace of conspiracy theories and vicious in their pursuit of those facing allegations or those deemed to be insufficiently credulous.

Woodward’s response was to announce “@BarbaraHewson complete troll and stalker. Police are dealing with it”. It seems to me troubling that a high-profile figure can make such a confident boast of police action with nothing to substantiate it. Perhaps Woodward was genuinely upset and Tweeted while angry – but he has not withdrawn his claim.

Genuine victims deserve sympathy and support – but that does not mean that they become saints who can do no wrong. In this instance, Woodward attempted to use his new public status to bully someone into silence over a view he disagrees with. By his own account, he is also interacting with police with that purpose in mind. Although from what I know of Barbara I wouldn’t fancy his chances very much, this is not something that should pass unchallenged.

9 Responses

  1. Regarding Woodward’s dismissal (“… no-one in the media, so far as I can see, has asked him about the connection between the two events, which occurred just a week apart”) I mentioned here…

    … that the original Guardian article of 16th November failed to mention the event until it was later inserted (without highlighting the revision).

    However, the dismissal took place a little earlier & therefore even the hastily inserted paragraph was factually incorrect:

    “Between 1 and 4 November 2016 a Misconduct Hearing was heard in private as directed by the Independent Legally Qualified Chair at Leyland Police Station.

    It was alleged that an officer engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a victim’s family member whilst acting in their capacity as a family liaison officer.

    The Panel found the allegations against the officer proven and in breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour in the areas of honesty and integrity, authority, respect and courtesy, duties and responsibilities, fitness for duty and discreditable conduct.

    The Panel found the conduct amounted to Gross Misconduct and the officer was dismissed from the Lancashire Constabulary with immediate effect.”

    An article in Spiked also failed to mention the curious timing:

    The police (his former employer) and the courts are the best way of proceeding, not running to a television studio. He will now be a guest-speaker at one of the myriad ‘survivors’ groups shindigs – back of the net!

  2. I bought the hard copy of the Guardian and it did have a single line saying that Woodward had been sacked from police ‘the week before’ for misconduct.But only in a subsequent article did it explain what the misconduct was.
    It was not the first time Woodward’s professional conduct had caused problems.
    But he isn’t the only complainant to have skeletons in his cupboard.Paul Stewart’s cocaine use interfered with his career.Derek Bell was convicted of domestic violence.You wonder what is going on here.

    • Mariana, I was referring to the original online article in The Guardian; the internet archive shows it omitted the relevant information (until later being inserted).
      To be honest the paper edition never even crossed my mind, so long is it since I ‘consumed’ the media in such a way… but at least the update made it to the newstands. Thanks for the info.

  3. With regards to the man charged with non recent sexual offences, has it been stated anywhere that he has been charged for alleged offences against Andy Woodward? All I’ve seen are references to a boy under fourteen years old.
    The investigation into this man dates back to at least September 2016 since that’s when a file was sent to the CPS. Hardly wise to speak to the media during an ongoing investigation – which a copper of all people would know and probably advise against himself – so do the charges even relate to Woodward’s claims?

  4. Sensationalism is the food of the media & to the media of the day the Bible calls it as “The prince of the power of Air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience:”

  5. It was not Detective Constable Andrew Woodward’s first major misdemeanor whilst an officer with Lancashire Constabulary: four years earlier, in 2012, his bizarre behaviour in Court, caused the collapse of the trial of an alleged armed burglar, at Preston Crown Court. Yet Woodward kept his job with the force. See link to Daily Mail article:

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